Dec 3, 2007
There’s one candidate in the current presidential race getting a lot of unusual attention. Many Democrats and Republicans find Ron Paul to be a lone voice in the wilderness. His supporters refer to his campaign as the “Ron Paul Revolution.”
His stance against U.S. interventions abroad and attacks on civil liberties at home attracts many people dissatisfied with the war in Iraq, including many workers.
Paul was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican from Texas. He has also run as a Libertarian – he was the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1988 – and takes a number of stances at odds with the Republican Party.
In a vein similar to some earlier Republicans – “isolationists ” like Robert Taft – he has frequently voted against spending on foreign wars, and speaks against the “American Empire” and the U.S. military interference in the affairs of other countries. He opposed the first Persian Gulf war, the war in Kosovo, and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he referred to as a “declaration of virtual war.” He was the only 2008 Republican candidate to have voted against the resolution allowing Bush to go to war against Iraq.
Paul also speaks in defense of civil liberties. He was one of the few in Congress who voted against the PATRIOT Act and he denounced the prison at Guantanamo.
But his defense of civil liberties only goes so far. For example, while he defended Don Imus’s right to make racist remarks as a “freedom of speech” issue, he did not give that same right to members of the women’s basketball team at Rutgers when they publicly denounced Imus for his racist and sexist stance.
And his opposition to the wars never extended to opposing U.S. domination of other countries by other means, economic ones – which is what lies behind the U.S. wars.
Paul also says the current tax system is wrong and opposes the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy as inflationary, describing inflation as an additional tax on the middle class. In fact, this stance has a tremendous appeal to many ordinary people outraged by paying high taxes to a government which provides few services, and burdened by ever-increasing prices.
Ron Paul is a populist. But in much the same way as William Jennings Bryan at the end of the 1800s, he puts the blame for economic problems on the capitalists’ move away from the “gold standard.”
He does not address the increasing exploitation of the working class – attacks on wages, the lack of affordable health care, or money for retirement. He opposes Medicare – not because it’s inadequate but because, he says, government shouldn’t interfere with privately run medicine. Using this same anti-government argument, he opposes most regulation on business. And he voted to continue government subsidies to Big Oil – this kind of government “interference” is fine with him!
While Paul speaks against high taxes, he mainly opposes progressive taxes like the graduated income tax, capital gains taxes and estate taxes that hit the wealthy a bit more heavily than other taxes do. He voted to extend tax breaks to business. In other words, he wants to go in the direction this government is already going – to rely more and more on regressive taxes – the ones that hit working and poor people the hardest.
Paul harkens back to some mythical time – the “good old days” – when America was supposedly free and the wealthy and the big corporations didn’t control the government. Those days never existed. Not in the time of Bryan, who denounced “the cross of gold,” not in the 1930s, not in the 1950s, not today.
And while Paul pretends to be for individual rights, he apparently does not mean full rights for women, since he is vehemently anti-abortion. He would refuse to give women the right to make that choice themselves – another kind of government “interference” he agrees with!
Paul also supported the recent anti-immigrant bills in Congress, that is, he panders to the reactionary attitude which encourages native born workers to blame immigrant workers for their problems – instead of blaming the bosses who would divide in order to exploit everyone.
In other words, he is also a populist in the mold of George Wallace of Alabama, who spoke about the oppression facing poor white Southerners, but then called on them to blame black people, poor like themselves, for their problems.
Paul may be outside the usual mold of presidential candidates. But he is in the mold of the earlier populists who led people right back into support of the capitalists who exploit them.
Workers need their own party, with their own leaders, a party that goes beyond purely electoral means and leads a real fight of the workers to defend their own interests.